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A colposcopy is an inspection of a woman's cervix or vagina for abnormal cells. A colposcopy may be recommended if there are any concerns after a routine cervical screening test, or if there are symptoms such as an inflamed cervix, unexplained vaginal bleeding, polyps and cysts, or genital warts on the cervix.
A colposcopy is a quick and simple examination that allows a specialist to assess a potential abnormality in your vagina or on your cervix and to decide on any treatment, if required.
You may be recommended to have a colposcopy if there are any concerns after a routine cervical screening test, or if you have symptoms such as an inflamed cervix, unexplained vaginal bleeding, polyps and cysts, or genital warts on the cervix.
A large magnifying glass (colposcope) is used to examine the cervix and vaginal area - this instrument doesn’t go inside you, so for most women this is a painless examination, but a speculum like the one used for a smear is used so some may find it a bit uncomfortable. A colposcopy can be carried out safely during pregnancy.
If an abnormal area of tissue is identified, a small biopsy (sample of tissue about the size of a pinhead) may be taken from the surface of the cervix for further analysis. You may feel a slight scratch or stinging, but it should not be painful.
Sometimes treatment to remove abnormal cells can be carried out during the colposcopy, and this will usually be carried out under a local anaesthetic so the area to be treated is numbed. A heated wire loop (loop excision) can be used to remove the abnormal cells, a procedure which is around 90% successful.
A colposcopy should take around five minutes, but perhaps slightly longer if a biopsy is taken or if further treatment is carried out at the same time.
After a colposcopy you should be well enough to continue with your usual routine.
If you’ve had a biopsy or treatment, some bleeding is to be expected and occasionally, if it’s heavy, it may require further treatment. Following a biopsy you’ll most likely have only a light, bloodstained discharge for a few days following the procedure. This is normal and should clear by itself. To allow the area to heal it’s suggested you avoid intercourse or using tampons for up to three weeks following treatment.
It may take a few weeks before you get the result of the biopsy - we’ll let you know as soon as possible if any further treatment is required.